Cole Commission Focuses On Force Protection Measures

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2000 - DoD's Cole Commission will
review and evaluate current force protection policies and
procedures for troops traveling to and from the Middle
East, and possibly recommend changes, the commission co-
chairmen said.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen appointed retired Army
Gen. William W. Crouch and retired Navy Adm. Harold W.
Gehman Jr. as co-chairs on Oct. 19. The FBI and Navy are
also conducting separate investigations into the Oct. 12
terrorist bombing of the destroyer USS Cole as it was
refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen sailors
died as a result of the attack and 39 were wounded.

"Our review ... is to find out if there are any improvements
in what we call 'the system' - any improvements that can
act to more effectively and efficiently add to the force
protection of transiting forces," Gehman told reporters at
a Nov. 2 Pentagon press briefing. "The USS Cole was out
there doing its mission. We are going to look for ways that
we can improve the performance of the rest of DoD to
support them."

"We were able to spend a few hours aboard the USS Cole,"
Crouch said. "The impressions that both of us have are
vivid. The action of the captain and crew following the
attack saved the ship and several of those injured
shipmates aboard. ... It was an inspired performance, and one
which every American should be very, very proud."

Crouch said he and Gehman have also visited U.S. Naval
Forces Central Command headquarters in Bahrain, U.S.
Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and the Cole's
sister ship, the USS Ramage, in Norfolk, Va.

DoD officials said the Cole Commission will examine
intelligence support, logistics and contracting procedures,
training preparations and force protection. Crouch noted
the panel will look at force protection for transiting
units such as the Cole, and also aircraft and other small,
independent units.

"We will look at policies, procedures, manpower, resources,
and practices in all these areas. Our review may lead us
into additional areas. We will be aggressive in looking at
anything and following any lead that our review takes us,"
Gehman said.

The commission has a roster of about 18 members, including
active-duty military and civilians, Crouch said. The panel
has no deadline in which to report to Cohen, he noted.

"The secretary has been very clear that what he's
interested in is a thorough, complete investigation. ...
There are no artificial limits that have been placed on
us," he said. "We have people's lives tied up in this at
the same time, and so we're interested in moving through it
just as quickly as we can."

Crouch and Gehman noted they would share information they
gather with the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative
Service. The FBI is trying to identify those responsible
for the attack, DoD officials noted. The Navy inquiry
focuses on what happened aboard the Cole before, during and
after the attack.

In other developments, about 250 members of the Cole's crew
arrived in Norfolk by air Nov. 3 for a reunion with
families and other loved ones hosted by Navy Secretary
Richard Danzig.

The Cole itself has been loaded piggyback aboard the
Norwegian ship Blue Marlin for a month-long trans-Atlantic
trip. The Navy has not announced where the ship will be
repaired. The Cole's captain and some crew remain with
their ship aboard the Blue Marlin.